Oct 18, 2015 • By

Watch for flying red letters

Be on the lookout for an unusual sight above the banks of the Mississippi River in Minneapolis this week.

It’s a sign, pun intended, of the return of an iconic landmark to the city’s skyline, which was last lit up in 2010.

One-by-one over a few days, a crane will lift the refurbished red letters spelling out “Pillsbury’s Best Flour” back to the top of the Red Tile Elevator – part of the entire historic Pillsbury milling complex that dates back to the 1870s.


It also will then take some time to reattach each letter to the structure that has held the sign since about 1940 (an earlier Pillsbury sign, featuring a flour bag, was up there from about 1920 to 1940).

Pillsbury sign

It’s no easy task. The largest letters are 11 feet tall. The entire sign stretches 30-feet from top to bottom.

The reinstallation completes the sign’s much-needed yearlong rehab project. Learn more about that, and see photos of the poor shape the letters and lights were in, in this video.

“The letters were pretty beat up and a lot of them had taken on water and rust over the years,” says Dave Peltier, vice president of sales for Lawrence Sign, the St. Paul company that restored the sign and is handling the work to put it back together.

The original steel and porcelain fronts of each letter were saved, but they were given new aluminum backs to prevent rust.


And, with the approval of the Minneapolis Heritage Preservation Commission, Lawrence Sign replaced the red neon lights on each letter with LED lighting meant to replicate the original look. It’s a necessary change that Peltier says will reduce energy costs and the cost of the yearly maintenance of the sign.


Rendering from Lawrence Sign

Lawrence Sign was contracted for the rehab by Dominium, the developer that now owns the sign and is restoring the Pillsbury complex buildings into artist lofts. (We’ll have a post on that project next week).

“It’s an amazing structure in itself but having the original Pillsbury sign back up there – that’s been a part of the landscape of this neighborhood – is going to be heralded by everyone,” says David Lepak, community manager of the A-Mill Artist Lofts. “The sign gives the building its full identity. It’s a spectacular addition to this property and will be literally the crowning jewel.”

An official relighting ceremony for the sign is planned Nov. 2.

By the way, the Pillsbury’s Best Flour sign is not the only one that General Mills has a connection to on the Minneapolis riverfront. The Gold Medal Flour sign on the downtown side dates back to 1910 to the Washburn Crosby Company, the predecessor to General Mills.

Editor’s note: The photo of the original Pillsbury sign at the top of the post is from Lawrence Sign. Here is a photo of the refurbished sign, taken after it was installed. And, this video also shows the sign installation (posted Nov. 3, 2015).

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